Photo: S Cudby/KTM 2010, 2015 and 2016 FIMWorld Supercross Champion and Captain America, at least for a couple of…
Photo: S Cudby/KTM
2010, 2015 and 2016 FIMWorld Supercross Champion and Captain America, at least for a couple of Supercross races care of a Marvel comics film, surely Ryan Dungey is the biggest name in American off-road sport? Surely, too, he’s fast heading towards legendary status? KTM USA’s top man talks straight about the importance of training like you’re racing and how living in the past doesn’t help when you’re racing in the present.
You’re obviously more consistent with your results in 2016 but maybe also more aggressive with it, with a little more ‘edge’ sometimes than in previous seasons. What do you think is the change in Ryan Dungey over the last two seasons?
It was really two things. KTM understanding me maybe being a little tentative at times and creating a bike that allows me to be more confident and aggressive. Confidence is really important and having a bike which you can do that on means a lot.
Also the training. I’ve started training with Aldon (Baker – motorcycling fitness trainer to the stars). Before I was just kind of doing what I thought was best in training but with Aldon it has been really helpful because it took a lot of the guesswork out of training. Before I was always, “what should I do Monday, what should I do Tuesday?” and that is harder. Then there’s always the question; “am I doing enough?” and that creates wonder, wonder creates doubt and that’s just a snowball effect.
With Aldon I really feel like I did everything in training 100 per cent: I practiced and did all the time in the gym and importantly trusted in it and that brought confidence as well.
The way we trained for an event was more intense too. The way we practice now is more like racing. The thing is practice is where it’s at. It’s where you do all your training, it’s where you build all your habits that you can then take to the races and apply. It’s also about the mentality too: I try to race like I practice. By that I mean the race track is not the place to re-invent the wheel. If we do it like we do at the practice, yes there’s more guys around but if we focus on ourselves put into practice what we trained for, get the starts, control what I can control and focus on ourselves then it comes together. When you control what you can control, get a good start and get out front and ride with a clear track like in practice then it is all about you.
And you’ve been training with stiff competition this year?
At the practice track I ride with Marvin (Musquin) and Jason (Anderson) so sometimes I’m chasing them, sometimes they’re chasing me and we switch things up and you have to make passes. So it forces you to think just like in a race so that was really helpful because it wasn’t such a change from the practice to the race.
You know you’re ego gets involved a little bit too, you’re thinking I can’t let him pass me! It’s like a game in a good way because you have to find it in you to keep him behind you or vice-versa just like a race. It almost brings out the best in you unknowingly: your intensity, your heart rate, your adrenalin, aggression and it’s all in training so you get more out of it. You’re getting more fitness out of it going into a season and into each race and that’s the goal with training, right?
That extra aspect of the training with Aldon, pushing yourself that extra bit in terms of fitness and heart rate is worth another five or 10 per cent so in a race you’re not pushing yourself as much. You can do it that way but it’s not as smooth. It’s better to have the fitness and that has definitely come this year.
So having pressure in training from Marvin and Jason makes it easier in the races?
Having the other guys there in training means you feel the pressure of having others pushing you on the track so you’re not going to feel the added pressure at a race. It’s not such a shock when a guy’s on your back wheel at the races when you’ve felt it in practice.
You know some guys are going to be faster than you some days, some days aren’t going to be the greatest but it’s about being consistently the best over the whole season, that’s the goal. Winning races is important but the championship is the goal, right?
Was being tentative in previous years all about pressure you put on yourself at each race then?
Life happens at this exact moment you know, you don’t want it to happen sooner than you want it to, if that makes sense? When the gate drops, well, yeah, you want to be at the finish line first but that’s where my problem was, I was always thinking; “I want to win, I want to win.” That makes you think on into the future and then your afraid to make mistake where you are now, then you’re tentative, you’re cautious and you’re putting expectations on yourself.
So the approach has changed to focus on myself. To ride one corner at a time as it comes. Apply yourself as much as you can with the bike, with yourself, corner by corner by corner. And then if you do your job well enough, you do the laps, then it’ll be there at the end. You’re not always gonna be first, I don’t want to be second but you know, sometimes you say; “ok, my best is my best.”
The past is the past too as well. It was problem as well in recent years – always wanting what I had earlier in my career. I was always living in the past saying to myself; “how do I get back to that moment.” But by looking at the past I was living in it. And that was the thing I learnt; to take everything from the past, apply the good to now and learn from it and there’ll be better days in the future. You want to experience the good days again but you can’t hang on to it, there are more good days ahead.